Pubdate: Thu, 05 Aug 2004
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2004 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.
Author: Danielle Adams
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Methadone)


Cactus stuck in old location. Merchants near UQAM objected to centre,
which also could become safe-injection site

Alex Jarry held his hands inches apart as he described the height of a
pile of used syringes chucked away in an alley by drug users who shoot
up near his workplace at Ste. Catherine and Sanguinet Sts.

The 28-year-old manager of a skateboard shop said yesterday he and his
neighbours are relieved a needle exchange won't be moving in across
the street.

Cactus, which provides methadone programs, counselling and free
needles for intravenous-drug users, had asked to buy a parcel of city
land at that corner to build a new facility. The building would also
have been a possible location for a supervised injection site that's
being proposed.

But Cactus cancelled its moving plans after city councillor Robert
Laramee of Ville Marie borough voiced his opposition to the group's
request at a meeting Tuesday night. Laramee aired his views after
hearing opposition from people who live or operate businesses nearby.

At the skateboard shop, Jarry said he was not among those who spoke to
Laramee, but he agreed that an organization like Cactus simply doesn't
belong in the gentrifying neighbourhood.

"I don't think any stores around here would agree with that and I
don't think the (Universite du Quebec a Montreal) would agree with
that, because it's an urban campus here. ... It's supposed to be clean
and everything," he said.

Jarry said organizations like Cactus are partly to blame for the piles
of dirty needles he sees. "All those syringes they give away for free,
you just find them on the sidewalk. It's just stupid."

Laramee said he had to heed the opposition he heard, but supports the
work Cactus does. "We need Cactus. We need more social intervention.
We need more therapy for drug users."

The organization had planned to leave behind the cramped, shabby
basement it currently occupies on St. Hubert St. and build a
5,000-square-foot facility.

But now, Cactus spokesperson Marianne Tonnelier said, the group will
have to look at other options. "I can say we are very disappointed,
but regarding what we are going to do now, I have no idea," Tonnelier

Laramee said Cactus is the organization most likely to build a
safe-injection site for drug users.

The councillor recently visited Vancouver and met its mayor to study
the supervised injection site established there a year ago. It is the
first of its kind in Canada. In Vancouver, the number of people using
drugs on the street has fallen by 35 per cent, Laramee said.

"If we open that kind of centre in Montreal, it can be good for the
safety and hygiene of the drug user, but at the same time, it will
give more quality of life and give back park space to the citizens,"
Laramee said.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin